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Florida Nears 500,000 Cases as Tropical Storm Disrupts State; Millions Fear Eviction as White House, Democrats in Stalemate Over Stimulus; Negotiations on Stimulus Package Continue as Benefits Expire. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired August 2, 2020 - 18:00   ET




ANNA CABRERA, CNN NEWSROOM: Hello, again. You are live in the CNN Newsroom. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Thanks so much for joining me.

Right now in this country, there is no two ways to say it. The message from the people who should be reassuring us and temping down our fear is all over the place. One side, one consistent, rational message from the scientific community, respected doctors, the CDC, the FDA, but somehow still, time and again, a different message from the White House, the president, and some of his supporters in Congress.

Now, this confusion continues from the top while this coronavirus is killing more than 1,000 Americans every day. Consider just this morning, one of the top coronavirus experts, Dr. Deborah Birx, warned the U.S. is in a new phase of the pandemic with more widespread cases. Her warning just days after the president held event in Florida with few masks and little social distancing.

Meantime, the Republican congressman who makes it wildly known that he refuses to wear a mask now has the virus. He says he is taking medicine for it, medicine the president says is good and his own task force doctors say is useless.

Who do you believe? The president continues falsely claim that more testing means more cases of coronavirus. Every doctor we speak with stunned by this lack of understanding. There are no analogies left to try to explain how wrong the president is. The truth is, increased testing isn't keeping up with the rate of illness.

Even a man the president calls a dear friend died of the virus this week, Herman Cain. Cain served as co-chair of Black Voices for Trump. He was pictured without a mask at the president's June 20th rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a rally which saw at least eight Trump advance team staffers in attendance test positive for the coronavirus.

But the president's response, off to corona ravaged Florida the day after Cain's death for that maskless impromptu rally, declare the crisis under control and then another weekend of golf.

So now, while the messaging continues to be muddled from the top about the coronavirus, parts of the east coast are dealing with not one, but two crises this weekend, not only the coronavirus but also Tropical Storm Isaias, which is expected to bring strong winds and dump inches of rain from Florida up to the east coast.

Now, Florida is the current epicenter of the coronavirus here in the U.S. And while the state has seen a slight decrease in new cases in the last few days, the seven-day average of new deaths has climbed. And that puts even more pressure on emergency officials and residents as they prepare for potentially dangerous storm conditions amid this pandemic.

And I want to bring in Meteorologist Tom Sater, who joins us from the CNN Weather Center now. And, Tom, what is what is the storm's path showing right now?

TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, good news for Florida for the most part, Ana. The adverse weather conditions are staying offshore, but conditions are going to deteriorate when this system moves towards the Carolinas.

Do not be fooled by the title being a tropical storm. I mean, years passed, and we've seen history over and over, that tropical storms can drop historic rainfall much more than even a category one or a category two hurricane. And I think that's the problem going in toward the Carolinas in about 30 hours.

Let me explain. This white you're seeing, this is a high altitude canopy of cloud cover where all the heavy rainfall, the crashing seas, the lightning, thunder storms are offshore. So, really, Florida is catching a break. It's about 55 miles just southeast of Cape Canaveral, and it's going to come pretty close. Look at the circulation.

I want to jump right to this wind forecast to give you an idea of what we're looking at. It's got 30 hours to feed on these extremely warm waters of the gulfstream. So could it become a hurricane again, absolutely, as it makes its way towards Charleston, at the worst time, full moon tomorrow and it's high tide. Charleston floods with astronomical high tide. You toss in a storm surge two to four feet headed toward that higher end, and all of this wind and rainfall moving just to the east of Charleston.

Now, just to the east, Santee River, South Carolina, northward to Surf City, North Carolina, has now been added into a hurricane watch and for good reason. Now, we watch heavy rainfall interior sections, the Carolinas into Delmarva.

Tropical storm watches now for areas up around -- well, all the way actually up to Coastal Rhode Island.


That includes Chesapeake, Tidal Basin, Delaware Bay. And by Wednesday afternoon, it will be out of here. So it's it is a multiday event.

All of the heavy activity is to the northeast. It's not wrapping around. Once that rainfall wraps that center, it could easily gain more strength and that's how it usually does. So it's going to feed off this water. So, again, circulation, just to give you an idea, is right in this general location. So everything is away. Winds have been coming up across Florida keeping it offshore.

But as we watch the forecast models, look what happens after 30 hours in these warm waters. Here is Charleston. It really starts to wrap around. Again, this area of the Carolinas has just been inundated with 36, 40 inches of rainfall already this year so the rivers are high. Here is our tropical storms in our watch and it extends all the way northward. So it's a multiday event.

I really think the problem is going to be tomorrow night. So most of the evening tonight through the day tomorrow, it stays offshore. Great news, but could still possibly be a hurricane. Really early for this. Typically, the second hurricane comes around the 18th of August, so we're ahead of schedule. It's going to be a busy season.

CABRERA: Okay. And everybody needs to hunker down and continue to heed the warnings. Tom Sater, thank you very much.

Now, one of the first known American COVID-19 survivors to receive a double lung transplant is now recovering and speaking out about the experience. 28-year-old Mayra Ramirez received the lung transplant at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago.

Now, after weeks in intensive care, she is making excellent progress and joins us now along with the surgeon who performed the operation, Dr. Ankit Bharat. He is the Chief Thoracic Surgery at Northwestern Medicine. It's so great to talk with both of you.

First, Mayra, let me start with you. We're so happy to know you are recovering. I understand you got sick in April. You got the transplant in June. And now finally you're back home. I can only imagine what a crazy and scary journey this has been for you.

Can you tell us about your battle with the virus, what happened and what your recovery process has been like?

MAYRA RAMIREZ, FIRST COVID-19 PATIENT TO RECEIVE DOUBLE-LUNG TRANSPLANT: Well, I have -- first, I was working from home. I wasn't go out anywhere. I was taking precautions. I wasn't even walking my dog. On April 26th, I went to the emergency room. Everything happened so quickly. They took my vitals and my oxygen level was very low. They were rushing me to change.

Within ten minutes, I only had a couple of minutes to contact my family to let them know that I was to be intubated. I was asked to have someone appointed as a designated person to make medical decisions for me. So I appointed my mother and elder sister.

After that, all I remember was being put to sleep as I was being intubated and then six weeks of complete nightmares. It's hard to distinguish what was reality and what actually happened. Some of the nightmares consisted a lot of drowning and I attribute that to not being able to breathe and struggling to breathe. During that time -- I -- in Spanish, the word, ventilator, means like ventilador, like a fan. I didn't understand the severity of the situation. To me, a fan means just means like they are going to help me breathe, give me some air and I would be okay. So I was anticipating maybe at the most a three-day stay, not six weeks on the vent as I ended up being on.

And my family was called. They all live in North Carolina. I was with my boyfriend at the time. He is the one that dropped me off at the emergency room and was there every day checking in on me. But other than that, my family really was in the dark about everything. They would get phone calls daily to see how I was doing.

And then one day they were told that I wasn't going to make it past the night and to make the decision whether or not they wanted to fly up to say goodbye because before this, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the hospital wasn't allowing family members. So there wasn't anyone at all. I wasn't able to hold them or see them or they weren't able to see me.

So that night, my family took the first flight out of there from Clinton, North Carolina, where I am from as well. But they took the first flight out of North Carolina to come see me.


Thankfully, I was able to get stabilized. So by the time they got here, they were explained the option of lung transplantation, because my lungs were irreversibly damaged and that was a last option for me. There wasn't anything else that they could. My other organs are starting to fail as well, the result of my lungs failing.

And 48 hours later, I received my lung transplant on June 5th. I had no idea that I had received along transplant. I just know I was in the hospital. I looked at myself. I couldn't recognize my own body. I couldn't talk. I could barely lift a finger, I couldn't move. I was in a lot of pain. I was very confused. I was very thirsty. All I could think about was that I wanted water. I couldn't process. My mind didn't have the ability to, I think, because of the sedation. I lost a lot of cognitive abilities.

CABRERA: And yet, Mayra, to hear that and to see you right now and the way you are articulating exactly what happened, you are painting a vivid image that's incredible to see how strong and what you look like today given how sick you were. One of your doctors told us for many days, you were the sickest person in their COVID ICU and possibly in the entire hospital. And you had hundreds of people who are helping to take care of you.

Doctor, let me turn to you. In your estimation, what would have happened to Mayra if she had not received this transplant?

DR. ANKIT BHARAT, CHIEF OF THORACIC SURGERY, NORTHWESTERN MEDICINE: Ana, so she would not be alive today. There were many times during the course that she had multiple complications from COVID and the virus and the secondary complication from the virus also even after she cleared the virus. So without the transplant, she would not have made it.

As Mayra described, her other organs were starting to fail. She had developed infection from other aggressive bacteria. So she needed this.

CABRERA: What made her a good candidate for the procedure?

BHARAT: Well, so she -- youth was on her side. So despite the complications we thought she was young and otherwise healthy. She had cleared the virus from her system from the best tests we have available, we were able to establish that. And those were the two big things, her youth, the fact that she was otherwise healthy and then she had cleared the virus from the system.

CABRERA: And, Mayra, how are you feeling today and what is your message to people in this country who may not be taking this virus seriously?

RAMIREZ: I am still in a lot of pain, I'm very weak. I'm working on my endurance and strength. I am still struggling to breathe and learning how use my new lungs. I feel that my message to people is to understand that this is not a hoax. This virus is real. It happened to me. It can happen to them. I know some people are asymptomatic, but they should still be careful and be considerate of those more vulnerable around them.

Also I want others to understand that lung transportation is an option for internally ill COVID patients and I want to be an example of that.

CABRERA: Wow. We wish you the very best in your ongoing recovery. Mayra Ramirez and Dr. Ankit Bharat, thank you both for joining us and sharing this incredible story. We really appreciate it. And, again, sending you the very best for a quick recovery.

RAMIREZ: Thank you.

BHARAT: Thank you.

CABRERA: Coming up, the unemployment benefit helping millions stay afloat right now has expired, leaving many Americans unable to buy food or facing evictions.

Plus, every parent wants a great school for their kids, but W. Kamau Bell is uncovering why that's not possible for some. Go inside the public school system on an all new United Shades of America tonight at 10:00 here on CNN.



CABRERA: A new month is here. Rent is due yet again. And for the millions of Americans feeling the economic strain from this pandemic, this is a cause for concern as the government's moratorium on evictions and additional unemployment benefits have both expired with no new deal in sight on a new stimulus package. CNN's Paul Vercammen joins us in California, where he spoke to a family who fears they may soon be homeless. Paul, what are you hearing?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what's happening here in California is there are many jurisdictions with many different rules on evictions. And we spoke with the Alvarez family. They are protected for right now by an L.A. city eviction moratorium. But what they're seriously worried about is a backlog in their rents. They haven't been able to pay.

The mom of this family, the matriarch, if you will, has not been able to go to her housekeeping job consistently. They slashed her hours. She has an 18-year-old son, a 28-year-old pregnant daughter. And because they have not been able to pay rent, they now fear that one day someone is going to ask them to pay.

And the son is now trying to make up the gap. He's a full-time student by taking on work himself. Let's listen to Marcos.


MARCOS ESPERANZA, FULL-TIME STUDENT FEARS BEING EVICTED: For me, it's pretty tough. I am a full-time student. And seeing my mom being financially unstable, I am trying to find a full-time job too where I can help out. So my day would be around 16 hours non-stop, studying and work.



VERCAMMEN: And there is this other side of the story, and that's landlords, they want to get paid. Many of them have smaller units and they rely on this rental income to make their own living. And we talked to a community activist about this double-edged sword.


CARLOS MARROQUIN, COMMUNITY ACTIVIST: We need to act boldly to be able to put in programs in place that will not only protect the renters but also the landlords. We understand that. Most of the renters that I speak with, if not all of them, they want to pay their rents. But if that's not happening, again, the landlords will also suffer, especially the mom and pop landlords suffer, and that worries me a lot.


VERCAMMEN: So there are two bills moving through the legislature in California. One would give a break to landlords who simply cannot pay the person that they borrowed for their mortgage from and another would allow them to get a tax credit given the leniency that they might give somebody who cannot pay their rent. We'll have to watch both of those carefully. But the bottom line here, Ana, tremendous misery on both fronts as COVID-19 has caused so much heartache in the form of rent not being able to be paid.

CABRERA: That's a tough situation. Paul Vercammen, thank you.

He was the presidential candidate who advocated for giving Americans $1,000 a month. So what does Andrew Yang think the American people need now that the economy is hitting record lows? We'll discuss, next.



CABRERA: As millions of Americans continue to face economic uncertainty amid the coronavirus pandemic, negotiations on an additional stimulus package appear to have stalled. Here is how Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin laid out their positions this morning.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): The fact is they put on the floor at the end of this week in the Senate $200. So when you say, well, they end up doing 600, they have no support for that in their party. We are unified in our support for the $600. They are in disarray.

STEVEN MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: Mark Meadows and I will be back there every day until we reach an agreement. We understand there is a need to compromise, but on the other hand, there is also a big need to get kids into school, get people back to jobs and keep the economy open and keep people safe.


CABRERA: With us now, former presidential candidate and CNN Political Commentator, Andrew Yang. Andrew, always good to see you. What do you make of this roadblock?

ANDREW YANG, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Ana, I can't believe that the Senate has not passed a bill. We are talking about August. The House passed their bill in May. What have the senators been doing for the two-plus months?

And the fact is, right now, 74 percent of Americans are for cash relief during the pandemic. They know that it's helping keep the economy going and keep groceries on the table and roofs over people's heads. 74 percent of in 2020 might as well be 98 percent, like it's infuriating that we're still at this point that we're having these conversations and it's August.

And as you just pointed out in the last segment, millions of Americans are facing eviction and worse because of the end of these unemployment benefits that have been keeping millions of households afloat.

CABRERA: What do you see as the result if that $600 a week were to drop to $200 a week temporarily, which is what the Republicans are proposing?

YANG: The $600, and studies have shown that, number one, it does not reduce work levels at all, they're actually showing that in many cases people that got these benefits were trying harder to find a job. But every dollar has been going right back into the economy, Ana. And the drop to $200 would be very difficult, even disastrous for many millions of households around the country.

We should just listen to the American people and say, look, everyone knows that the economy is at a standstill during this time. We've lost 40 million jobs. 42 percent of the jobs we've lost are gone for good, according to economists.

So we need to put these supports in place, enhanced unemployment benefits, direct cash relief to families and aid to states that will keep the states from having to lay off workers of their own, which is the last thing you need during this recession that's teetering again on the edge of a depression if Congress does not get its act together.

CABRERA: The Democrats have turned down suggestions to do short-term extension at least, as they continue to debate what the longer term path forward would be. Is that the right move? I mean, isn't something better than nothing?

YANG: Again, the HEROES Act passed the House in May. And so the fact that Democrats are trying to get an entire deal done as opposed to adopting piecemeal measures, it's tough to get inside the heads of Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the leadership because they are the ones who were actually having to hammering out this deal. I would just say that there's no reason we should be at this point on August 2nd. And that, I will put mainly on the Republicans because the Democratic act, the HEROES Act, the House passed it over two months ago. And so if you knew you were going to make a deal, you should not be running up to the deadline or past it at this point.

CABRERA: Meantime, the election ticks closer now, just 93 days away. And the first debate is next month. Some Democrats have said Biden shouldn't participate in a debate with Trump because it would give the president a giant platform to lie.


Do you think Joe Biden the president?

YANG: I think Joe Biden is licking his chops to debate --


YANG: Debate Donald Trump. I think he's been waiting for it for months. And I've been on the debate stage with Joe. Joe is going to clean his clock. And I believe that nothing is going to be able to hold Joe back from doing just that. The fact is a lot of Donald Trump's messaging has been about how Joe has lost his step and then when the American people see the contrast between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, it's going to be a very tough case for the president to make. So I expect the debate to take place, Ana, and I think Joe will be very, very excited for them.

CABRERA: Before we get to the debates, we're going to learn soon who Biden's running mate will be. He is supposed to make an announcement this week perhaps. Do you have any predictions?

YANG: You know, Joe has been a vice president himself for eight years so I know he's going to make the best decision based upon who he has the right chemistry with and the right partner for governing. Certainly he has no shortage of excellent people to choose from. You know, I'm friends with at least some of them. And I feel like he can't go wrong based on the people I know personally.

CABRERA: All right, Andrew Yang, we've got to leave it there. And I had a feeling you weren't going to answer my question directly with a name, but we look forward to having you back once he makes a decision. And then we can discuss --

YANG: I'm hurting, Ana.

CABRERA: So we can discuss it again. Good to see you. Thank you.

YANG: Good seeing you, too. Stay well.

CABRERA: You too.

We heard what Andrew Yang had to say about Biden's big decision. Coming up, David Gergen and Ana Navarro will weigh in as the Democratic candidate closes in on a VP pick.



CABRERA: Joe Biden is expected announce his running mate any day now and the women believed to be on his short list have found themselves playing defense to attacks. This week it was Congresswoman Karen Bass' turn on the hotseat. The Trump campaign highlighting her trips to Cuba as a young activist and questioning whether Biden would, quote, "put Castro-loving communist Karen Bass a heartbeat away from the presidency," end quote.

Now that sentiment was also echoed by Florida Senator Marco Rubio.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): We're talking about someone as early as the 1970s was involved in this brigade of sympathizers, radical pro- Castro, Venceremos Brigade in the 1970s. If God forbid Joe Biden was elected president and Congresswoman Bass becomes vice president, she would be the highest ranking Castro sympathizer in the history of the United States government.


CABRERA: Now here's how Congresswoman Bass responded to that criticism. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. KAREN BASS (D-CA): Well, one, I don't consider myself a pro- Castro sympathizer. Number two, my position on Cuba is really no different than the position of the Obama administration. As a matter of fact, I was honored to go to Cuba with President Obama. I went to Cuba with Secretary Kerry when we raised the flag. So there really isn't anything different.

And then frankly, I believe the Republicans have decided to brand the entire Democratic Party as socialists and communists so I am not surprised by Rubio's characterization of me or of a role I would play if I were on the ticket.


CABRERA: Joining us now to discuss, CNN senior political analyst and former adviser to four presidents, both Republican and Democrat, David Gergen.

David, good to see you. What do you think of these attacks on Bass and how she's responded?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, good to see you, Ana. I think attacks are to be expected. She's going to have to have a baptism by fire. It's a good thing for Joe Biden to go ahead and have that conversation now before he makes a decision one way or the other. He can discover how serious it is.

I don't think it's very serious to most Americans. You know, the Castro issue, you know, we've moved on from the sharp anti-Castro views this country had, you know, 30 years ago. Obama moved us much more toward a more respectable relationship. So I don't think this is a big deal at this point. But it could had (INAUDIBLE) the decision- making on the vice presidency.

CABRERA: David, every potential pick goes through a vetting process of course. I just want to read you what former Bush campaign adviser Mark McKinnon wrote for "Vanity Fair." He says, "The stage is big and the spotlight is hot. You don't want a running mate who's unfamiliar with that arena and is going to melt when the human microwave gets cranked up to 11, which means that a person who has run for president herself should probably have a leg up on others on Biden's list. Hello, Senators Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren."

What do you think of that analysis?

GERGEN: I think it's spot on. And those two women are both, you know, highly qualified. Look, what we understand from insiders around Vice President Biden is that he's asking three questions. Can this person do the job? Can this person get along well with me? And is this person going to be an asset or a liability on the campaign trail?

Now I think that last question, as asset or as liability, is something that's very important for a frontrunner. First thing you want to make sure, first rule, get someone who does no harm. We've seen in the past, for example, John McCain selecting Sarah Palin. And at first, it seemed like, you know, brilliant, outside-the-book kind of choice, and then it crumbled a lot. She was, you know, wind up being much more problematic as a vice presidential candidate.

Dan Quayle with President George H. W. Bush. He looked like the safe choice but there are things started to unravel for him within 24 hours of getting the nomination. You can go all the way back to 1972 with Tom Eagleton was selected by the Democratic nominee George McGovern. And they didn't vet him very well. It turned out Eagleton had had some mental problems and had gone through some pretty serious psychiatric care.


And, you know, that shouldn't be disqualifying, but you really want to know that before you put that person on the ticket, and you really want to understand the circumstances. So do no harm I think is the first rule and I think Joe Biden will abide by that.

What disappoints me or concerns me about the question she's answering is, first question was, can this person do the job? Well, what job are we talking about? Being the vice president? That's not really much of a job. That's easy. Almost everybody can be a vice president. But the critical question is, what happens if that vice president is selected or must overcome president of the United States? That's the real issue here in the Biden campaign.

I think they ought to be looking for someone who the country will see has enough stature and has the capacity and has the background, has done things not only at the national level in Washington but within the state. And that person happens to be Kamala Harris by sort of most obvious commonsense standard.

But she has some detractors. Some people think she's really hard to get along with, et cetera. I think -- I still think that's the number one criterion. Is this person qualified to be a good president in the event I step aside?

CABRERA: Speaking of Kamala Harris, Politico is reporting that allies of Harris secured a meeting with Biden campaign officials after reports that members of Biden's vetting team were still upset about her debate attack on Biden last year. And on Friday Harris addressed the critics this way.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA): Nobody like you has done it before. They're not ready for you. And I would not listen. There will be a resistance to your ambition. There will be people who say to you, you are out of your lane, because they are burdened by only having the capacity to see what has always been instead of what can be.


CABRERA: David, history has shown us presidents and vice presidents can work together after nasty exchanges on the campaign trail. Do you think all will be forgiven?

GERGEN: Well, I hope so. I don't -- you know, you have to say, Ana, if this had been a male candidate who said what she said at the debate, it would have been forgiven by now by and large. You know, she didn't apologize, the Biden people weren't happy with that. She hasn't really apologized since. But hey, when George H. W. Bush called -- said Reagan had his voodoo economics, and really tore into him on what he was proposing, Reagan forgot that, overcame it and named him as his vice president.

So I think the most normal circumstances, a person in Kamala Harris' position, it would be put behind them, any campaign would put it behind them. But she has a sharp edge sometimes. And there are probably people around Biden who feel like we don't want to be lectured by her. I think that's a short-term view. I think much more important is, would she be a good vice president and would she work well with Biden as his partner?

I think those are big, big questions. And I don't think this is such a big deal about that first debate. I think that, again, I come back to it, if it had been a male in her situation, I think we would be talking about something else.

CABRERA: All right, David Gergen, thank you. Good to have you here.

GERGEN: Thanks, Ana.

CABRERA: A Delta flight returns to the gate after travelers refuse to wear masks. Also, a fight breaks out on a different flight. This is a KLM fight, again, over masks. Are these disputes becoming the new norm? We'll discuss. But first, what can we expect on Wall Street after the U.S. reported its worst economic plunge on record?

CNN's Julia Chatterley has your "Before the Bell" report.

JULIA CHATTERLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Ana, just how badly has the U.S. recovery stalled? Yes, the economy posted its worst ever quarter between April and the end of June, but as shocking as these numbers are, they're also in the past. The big question for investors now is, where do we stand today?

This week the July jobs report may give us some insights. Economists forecast the U.S. economy added more than two million jobs and the unemployment rate slipped to 10.3 percent. But keep in mind, first- time filings for jobless benefits have increased now for two weeks in a row. So lasting damage to the labor market remains a key concern.

This week corporate America will also give its insights into the pandemic's toll. Walt Disney reports results on Tuesday. The media and entertainment giant is facing a double whammy from the closure of movie theaters and theme parks. Their shares are down around 20 percent this year.


Earnings from Uber, Hyatt, Wynn, and Caesars will also likely reflect the deep challenges facing the travel and hospitality industry.

In New York, I'm Julia Chatterley.



CABRERA: Two passengers are removed from a Delta flight after refusing to wear masks. That flight from Detroit to Atlanta was forced to return to the gate. We're also learning of two passengers arrested during a KLM flight to Ibiza, Spain. The airlines saying they were, quote, "unruly" and refused to wear face masks.

Sara Nelson joins us now. She's the international president of the Association of Flight Attendants.

Sara, this story is like, wow, how frequently is this sort of thing happening?

SARA NELSON, INTERNATIONAL PRESIDENT, ASSOCIATION OF FLIGHT ATTENDANTS: Well, unfortunately, we're seeing a rise of people who are refusing to wear the mask and that has a lot to do with the leadership and the sort of narrative that is being put out from the leadership and our government that this is about a political decision rather than a public health decision. And that's unfortunate because that puts us on the front lines having to deal with that.

I want to applaud Delta Airlines for backing up the crew here and keeping passengers safe, and make sure that they are enforcing their mask policy. But really we should have a federal mandate for everyone to wear masks, just like we have a federal mandate that you cannot smoke on a flight because it threatens everyone else's safety and health.

CABRERA: So what happens to people like this? They're kicked off this flight but are they banned now?

NELSON: They're banned and Delta has said that they have banned approximately 100 people so far. Other airlines are banning people from traveling. And there's talk of airlines coordinating on banning people who have been banned on other airlines flights as well. So we have to take this really seriously. But if we had a federal mandate, we would also have the backing of consequences, felonies and fines that would come with this action.

And this is what happens in aviation. We have to come to the door of the airplane with the spirit that we're all in this together for us to get safely from one place to another. That's just the way it works. And in this case we all have to wear a mask for all of us to be safe.

CABRERA: I mean, this has to be maddening for other passengers who are doing the right thing. I mean, they're on these planes now. They're delayed. I'm curious, what is the response of other passengers when this happens?

NELSON: Well, what you're seeing is that other passengers get very upset about this and they do expect the airlines to enforce it and sometimes that peer pressure helps us do our job in de-escalating the situation and getting people to comply. But in other cases, it can give rise to these tensions and we have had flight attendants who have been assaulted and hurt very badly in these cases.

So we really need some clear leadership. And let's be really clear. In my purse sitting next to me on the floor here, I have a passport that's no good right now. That's because the rest of the world doesn't trust America to get our act together to contain the virus and do what's necessary to do that. So this has an impact on our freedom, our access and all the things that we have traditionally enjoyed, not to mention my job security. We're working right now to get an extension of payroll support through Congress because our jobs are in jeopardy because of this virus and because we have not taken the steps together to contain it.

CABRERA: Anybody can board a plane with a mask and then just take it off during the flight. Has that been an issue?

NELSON: Well, we have had some passengers who have done that and certainly people are going to take sips of water, they're going to take -- they're going to have something to eat. But Delta, for example, has very good announcements that says, wait until the flight attendants are a few rows back, wait and make sure that you're not doing that right in someone else's face, do it -- make sure your nose and mouth are covered. All of those things.

All of that information is very important for passengers to also properly wear the masks. Some people have put up videos on social media showing ways to get around wearing the mask on flights and you can be very clear that we're getting those to the airlines and working to ban those people up front as well.

CABRERA: How full are flights right now?

NELSON: Flights are not running at capacity on the average. They are running around 60 percent capacity. Some of the airlines have added more flights in order to keep that capacity down to give us a little more space on board. But, you know, on an airplane you cannot properly socially distance. It doesn't matter. Anywhere you're sitting on a plane, it's impossible to do. So when you can't properly socially distance, you have to take these other safety steps and the very first and most important one is for everyone to be wearing a mask.

CABRERA: There's obviously an increased risk when you get a lot of people in one place and so I'm wondering, you know, you have the PPE, you have the extra cleaning methods, you have people wearing masks, you have passengers having to fill out questionnaires on some airlines. Now that more people are starting to travel, though, are more and more flight attendants getting sick?

NELSON: Well, Ana, what's really amazing is that there have been stories about travel returning, but the fact of the matter is that traveling has leveled off and bookings have started to drop again as cases have started to rise again. So the real threat is the virus and getting the virus contained is what's going to keep all of us healthy but also is what's going to allow us to restart our economy.


CABRERA: Absolutely. Sara Nelson, really good to have you with us. Thank you for sharing.

NELSON: Thank you.

CABRERA: That's going to do it for me tonight. Thank you for being here. I'm Ana Cabrera. Wolf Blitzer picks up our coverage with a special edition of "THE SITUATION ROOM" next. Have a great night and a great week.